On Monday two bills passed out of a State Senate Committee. Both focus on vaccinations for Utah school kids.
The bills would require parents who choose not to have their kids vaccinated to watch an online educational program to make sure they understand the risks of opting out. Other provisions include making immunization exemption forms available online instead of at a doctor’s office and student immunization records would be more easily shared between schools for record keeping or if a student transfers.
Republican Representative Norm Thurston is the sponsor of both bills. Part of the balance of writing them was streamlining the process for kids to get vaccinated without infringing on the rights of parents who choose not to participate.
"This is a difficult issue. And as you can tell, I’m not 100 percent sure I know all the answers to all these questions – should it be opt in should it be opt out, how do we balance the rights of privacy. Should we really require every physician to be in?" Thurston said.
During the Senate Committee meeting, both pro- and anti-vaccination advocates spoke in support of the bills.
Gary Edwards is the Director of the Salt Lake County Health Department. He’s been watching both bills closely, especially how they would deal with the new online exemptions to getting vaccinated.
"I think we’ll have to wait and see the impact of these bills. The concern could be that this makes the exemption more convenient for individuals," Edwards said.
In Salt Lake County, Edwards says around three-to-four percent of children are not vaccinated. He says around five percent is where public health experts start to get concerned about overall immunity levels.
Both vaccine bills now go to the full Senate. The bills have already passed the House. The legislative session ends at midnight on Thursday.